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by Tim Beissmann

The US Government’s vehicle safety authority has closed its investigation into the Chevrolet Volt after it found the plug-in vehicle’s electric components did not create an increased fire risk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched an investigation into the Volt on November 25 after vehicles crash-tested earlier in the year caught fire in the days and weeks after their tests.

Earlier this month, Chevrolet parent company General Motors announced a “customer satisfaction program” for the Volt, in which dealers would perform a number of upgrades to enhance its post-crash safety.

The NHTSA announced the closure of its investigation on Friday, concluding that “no discernible defect trend exists and that the vehicle modifications recently developed by General Motors reduce the potential for battery intrusion resulting from side impacts”.

Based on the available data, the NHTSA does not believe the Chevrolet Volt or any other electric vehicle pose a greater risk of fire than petrol-powered vehicles.

“Generally all vehicles have some risk of fire in the event of a serious crash,” the NHTSA said in a statement. “However, electric vehicles have specific attributes that should be made clear to consumers, the emergency response community, and tow truck operators and storage facilities.”

In collaboration with the US National Fire Protection Association and the Department of Energy, the NHTSA has developed guidelines to help educate emergency response workers, vehicle owners and others about the appropriate safety measures for dealing with electric vehicles that have been involved in a serious crash.

The NHTSA says it has not been notified of any real-world crashes linked to battery-related fires involving the Chevrolet Volt or any other electric vehicle.

GM says the voluntary safety upgrades to the Volt “make a safe vehicle even safer”, and insists its overriding commitment is to provide customers with the best ownership experience and peace of mind in the industry.

The rebadged, localised Holden Volt will go on sale in Australia towards the end of this year